« If this is true, that Snark Auction was desperately overpriced. | Main | Cause, then effect. »

Eric: Wiley blinks.


(From Non Sequitur. Click on the thumbnail for full sized hubris!)

Okay, one note before we go any further. Take away any knowledge or perspective of relative situations, change the name of "Scotty" to, say, "Toby," and look at this just as a comic strip.

All set? Cool. Taken in a vacuum, this is actually pretty funny. I think we should mention that -- no matter what agenda or behind the scenes shit is being flung against the walls, this strip will play in Topeka. It Brings the Funny. So Wiley Miller's done his primary job. I think it's important to acknowledge that before we discuss the subtext here.

Okay. The subtext. "Scotty." Scott Kurtz. Get that? Hah hah hah hah hah hah! It's about how the web cartoonists think they're celebrities because they have a lot of people reading their websites.

There's a moment I really love, back when the West Wing was good. President Bartlett is meeting Governor Ritchie, who's the presumptive Republican Nominee running against Bartlett for reelection. Bartlett is in a bad mood because one of his Secret Service detail has just been shot and killed by a petty criminal. They spar for a bit, after Ritchie's oh-so-insightful and sensitive "Crime, jeez. I dunno" when he hears about the murder. And Ritchie makes it clear that he hates Bartlett in a litany of Right Wing catchphrases. "You're what my friends call a superior sumbitch. You're an academic elitist and a snob. You're Hollywood, you're weak, you're liberal, and you can't be trusted."

It was a moment of sheer, unmitigated hubris. Now, no one watching -- I mean, no one watching -- thought Ritchie was going to beat Bartlett's reelection bid. I mean, that's the ball game for the series, and at the time it was a monster hit. But at that moment, the viewing public had a switch click over in their brains. They wanted to see Bartlett come back and wipe the superior smirk off Ritchie's unengaged face. Here he was, inarticulate and insensitive, and he has the gall to call Our Guy weak and elitist and untrustworthy?

And on his way out, Bartlett looks back and says "In the future, if you're wondering, 'Crime, boy, I don't know,' is when I decided to kick your ass." Ritchie looked amused.

And Bartlett proceeded to kick his ass in the election. And we loved it.

As funny as the strip is on its own merits, it's mean spirited and it's ugly and it highlights a sense of close-mindedness. And make no mistake, Wiley Miller is talking about Scott Kurtz, here. He's been very vocal about Kurtz's plan for newspaper inclusion and extremely dismissive about the ability for webcartoonists to make a living or build a following based largely on their online readership.

And it made me stop and think, oddly enough, about Coca Cola and Pepsi.

As long as Pepsi Cola's been taking a shot at the marketplace, they've held "Pepsi Challenges." You know the theory: two cups of soda. The person drinks them both and says which one he likes more. "Gosh," he says. "I preferred the Pepsi!" Cue logo.

You never saw Coca Cola hold those taste tests, or talk it up, or even mention Pepsi. They talk about "The Real Thing," and teaching the world to sing, and polar bears that drink soda. But they don't talk about their competition. They don't have to. They're at the top of the heap. It's the same with McDonald's. Burger King talks a lot about how flame cooked burgers are better than fried, and any number of other invidious comparisons to the golden arches. McDonald's? McDonald's has "I love this place." Burger King isn't in their world.

Of course, Coke did react once to Pepsi. They created "New Coke" to stave off the Pepsi Invasion. Who do you think came out better from that move?

Wiley's at the top of the Syndication ladder. Oh, he's not Lynn Johnston or Cathy Guisewite or Jim Davis or Scott Adams... or Garry Trudeau, Bill Amend, Johnny Hart, Aaron McGruder, Pat Brady... or....

Okay, Wiley's a solid second tier syndication performer. He's certainly doing just fine. He has several collections in print, and that's a sign of success any way you look at it. And if he's not a household name, he's certainly well read on the newspaper page. He's on my daily trawl (the My Comics Page section), so clearly I like his comical drawings and witticisms, and I'm hardly alone.

The point is, Wiley's not a struggling syndicate cartoonist. He's not going anywhere. He's Mainstream.

And when you're in his position, you don't take shots at the people trying to fight their way up. You don't call attention to them at all. You're ahead. You don't need to legitimize your opponents by actually referring to them. When asked about them, you look confused and say "who?"

Wiley blinked today. And if you think Scott Kurtz showed some hubris by announcing his plan... that's nothing compared to the hubris of dismissing the web wholesale publicly. One thing that's incontrovertible is that newspaper circulations (and the newspaper comics page) are on the decline, while the web is still growing, dot com bust or not. If Scott Kurtz gets some traction... if he gets into dozens or hundreds or thousands of newspapers over the next few years... and if his business model continues to feed Kurtz's family and grows... then this strip will be considered a watershed moment. This is when the buggy driver shouted "get a horse!" at the automobilist. And when history of illustration texts are written, this strip will end up reproduced as the point where the newspaper cartoonists began to react to their inevitable decline.

I don't know if Kurtz will succeed or not. I really don't. But someone will succeed. The one thing we can be certain of is things are changing tremendously, and that change can't be stopped.

All I know is this. Up until now, this has been an academic affair for me. Now, it's not. I want to see that smirk wiped off their faces.

In the future, when we all look back to now... this will be the time when the "webbies" decided to kick the syndicates' ass.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at December 15, 2004 1:46 AM

Comments

Comment from: A. Hooley posted at December 15, 2004 3:22 AM

When I read the strip this morning, I didn't catch that Miller was slamming Kurtz. In fact, I chuckled and thought, "Scotty's who I aspire to be!" Nuts. Now I'm slightly pissed.

Comment from: Shaenon posted at December 15, 2004 3:31 AM

Bah. If we can't take a joke, why are we drawing comic strips?

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 15, 2004 4:14 AM

The fabulous lifestyle?

Comment from: Chris Anthony posted at December 15, 2004 7:52 AM

Y'know, it took me four hours (from the time I first saw the strip on pvponline.com, discounting about four hours of sleep) to figure out how to parse the joke in this strip so that it's funny. If "Scotty"'s line had been "...celebrities still need..." - or even if "celebrities" had been emphasized - I would have seen it immediately.

Sadly, getting the joke also defused several paragraphs of me wondering what the hell was funny about that strip. Oh, well - you win some, you lose some.

Fortunately for me, though, getting the joke doesn't defuse my other point - that not only is this totally unnecessary on Wiley's part, but it backfires, too. Consider: "Scotty", the soi-disant celebrity, is trying to get into "Le Club de Foofoo", which is pretty much the archetypal name for a Self-Important Establishment; the implication of the existence of the list is that it's not possible to get into Le Club de Foofoo without knowing or bribing somebody on the inside; and the implication of the existence of the bouncers is that not only do those inside Le Club de Foofoo not want outsiders coming in, but they're willing to use force to keep them out.

In other words, Wiley's communicating that Scott is trying to get into an establishment that's already overwhelmingly self-important (the newspapers), and that regardless of hard work, marketing, and success in the same field (albeit in different media), nobody's going to get into Wiley's club without an invitation - and Wiley and the rest of the club like it that way.

This strip doesn't showcase Scott's ignorance, like Wiley wants it to, I'm afraid. It showcases Wiley's arrogance, self-importance, and unwillingness to embrace new ways of doing things.

Comment from: Patrick Harris posted at December 15, 2004 8:05 AM

Well, now, let's be fair. Even Gabe & Tycho have taken severely cheap shots (well, maybe just the one) at Kurtz. He seems to bring that out in people.

Comment from: William_G posted at December 15, 2004 8:21 AM

While it is quite possible Wiley blinked, it's also equally possible he pulled a name out of his ass. Really, only Wiley knows for certain.

And I think we're being overly optimistic if we think that "webcartoonists" are currently a threat to any print organization. Kurtz is seen as a threat by some because he's basically offering to Walmart them out of a paycheque. But seriously, there are maybe four or five webcartoonists who can be seen as having the audience to even attempt what Kurtz is, and a few dozen more with the skills to sell enough dead trees to make print publishers pick them up.

We can all see the good in some of the smaller comics because we're all immersed in the world of webcomics, but from my purely unscientific observations, webcomics are still seen as amature hour at the scanner. We, as a (heh heh heh) "community" are seen the same way all comic geeks are: A bunch of wannabe dorks to be ignored.

I dont like it either, but it's going to take a few more years (maybe even a decade or two) before we can gain any of the respect we deserve.

Webcartoonists will get into print, but it will be on print's terms. And as you so rightly pointed out, print is not willing to accept a new Watterson or Brethed anytime soon. Kurtz is asking to be just that.

Of course, this is assuming there's still going to be a print industry for comics in the future. I still see all of this as trying to get on the Titantic AFTER it's on its way down...

Comment from: William_G posted at December 15, 2004 8:23 AM

And Patrick, cheap shots are what Penny Arcade thrives on. It's not exactly a rocket science comic.

Comment from: BZArcher posted at December 15, 2004 8:36 AM

+5 for good comment matter.

+10 for referencing when The West Wing was still good.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 15, 2004 8:36 AM

(NOTE: This is posted on behalf of and by request of T. Campbell, who's having Typekey Issues. Typekey Issues -- your number one source of frustration at 8:17 am while reading Websnark.)

Score another one for Websnark.

­FWIW, Wiley's attitude toward all things Webbish did not originate with Kurtz. After introducing Wileytoons.com in 1998 (now a generic "list of links" site he clearly no longer owns), Wiley began using Non Sequitur to satirize the hubris of Webbies with increasing ferocity and monotony. He continued to run jokes like this well after the dot-com bust, which always felt to me like kicking people when they're down. I mean, how many political cartoonists are still taking potshots at Kerry?

­Despite Wiley's talent, I've never really enjoyed his strip because of those gags. They weren't a "wry look at the absurdities of everyday life," they were just the same damn gag over and over. Yeah, we didn't conquer the world after all. WE GET IT! But you know, we're EXCEEDING expectations now instead of disappointing them, and you're STILL slamming Pets.com, Miller. Which of us is looking better?

It's not as bad as what happened to Mark Twain or Al Capp. But give it time.

Comment from: Charlie L posted at December 15, 2004 8:49 AM

I think that's the first time I've encountered the use of Walmart as a verb. (I know, I live a sheltered life) I think what frightens me is that I understand immediately and completely what is meant by using Walmart as a verb. Is that what Scott is doing? I don't think so. I think what Scott is doing is more akin to Mozilla giving Firefox away for free to chip away at Microsoft's market dominance and to make a point that there is more than one way to do things.

Comment from: mhallex posted at December 15, 2004 9:35 AM

Honestly when reading the comic in the paper the other day I didnt think it was about Kurtz. I suppose the scotty thing is a bit of a slam, but it could just be that Wiley was talking about all those political bloggers who've grown increasingly self-important in decrying the MSM since the election and whatnot.

Tis possible it is an attempt to slam Glenn Reynolds et al and not Kurtz.

Or perhaps it is an attack against both?

Oh, and extra points for the West Wing analogy.

Comment from: tynic posted at December 15, 2004 9:52 AM

Looking at Wiley's lengthy comments on Toontalk and other places, I don't think there's much doubt that this is a jab at Kurtz. Though he as yet has not publicly confirmed nor denied the inference.

Comment from: Maritza Campos posted at December 15, 2004 10:13 AM

You're wrong, Eric. I don't think this joke is about cartoonists at all, but it should be! Substitute "hits on website" with "newspapers his cartoon is in" and the joke is equally funny! Who ever heard of a cartoonist, ANY kind of cartoonist, getting in a restaurant without a reservation just by dropping his name? HAHAHA! What's next, being chased into tunnels by papparazzi? I'm sorry, but top tier of syndicated cartoonists or not, the world just doesn't care about us.

If it's indeed a jab at Scott Kurtz, it's a bit sad. It would mean someone as non-significant, in Wiley's eyes, has actually *managed* to get under his skin somehow. Which is sad. And a little funny too, especially after the conversations we've had lately.

Maritza

CRFH.net

Comment from: toddandpenguin posted at December 15, 2004 10:31 AM

I don't know if this is about Scott or not, did anyone post this at Toontalk to get Wiley's reaction? I would, but Toontalk crashes my work computer.

On the Coke thing, there is a story of one other time Coke took Pepsi seriously. Pepsi was about to introduce Clear Pepsi, and Coke was scared shitless that the whole clear thing would take off, so they made a premptive strike by rushing to bring back TAB COLA, a diet drink that had not performed well for them in years and had ceased production, and made TAB CLEAR, and it was Godawful, and people quickly equated 'clear' with Godawful, and once Pepsi was finally able to launch their Clear Pepsi, it was too late, the 'Clear' had been sabotaged by Coke. An interesting story, don't remember where I read it.

Comment from: cartoonlad posted at December 15, 2004 10:48 AM

The thing is, due to the nature of syndicated comic strips, he blinked up to six weeks ago. If Scott decided to retaliate in his comic strip today, we might have to wait until the end of January to see Wiley's reaction. Put another way, for each jab Wiley makes, Scott can produce about forty solid punches.

Comment from: Sage posted at December 15, 2004 10:58 AM

Actually, Maritza, I think you're both right. Wiley's not being specific to web cartoonists. He's making a general swipe at the self-importance of web-based publishers, be it the bloggers or the web cartoonists or even the independent musicians. But I'm sure the use of the name "Scotty" is an extra little swipe at Kurtz. Eric's point still holds -- this is old media taunting the new, and we'll all be happy to see that smirk wiped off his face when he's replaced.

A note about Coca-Cola's marketing: New Coke was indeed introduced to combat the Pepsi taste tests. Coke developed New Coke to perform better in taste tests than both original Coke and Pepsi. But the campaign was a disaster -- not because New Coke tasted bad, but because Coca-Cola was an American icon, and if there's one thing we Americans hate, it's people messing with our icons. By bringing back Coca-Cola Classic, Coke eventually regained significan market share from Pepsi, simply by revitalizing the brand.

Coca-Cola learned two things from this:

  1. By returning to the original Coca-Cola Classic, they would not be able to outperform Pepsi in taste tests.
  2. They didn't have to -- the brand was as powerful, if not more powerful, than the flavor.

People drink Coke for the symbolism as much as they do for the flavor, and that's what Coca-Cola advertises on. Wiley, however, is no Coca-Cola, and his brand nowhere near as powerful. So it's no wonder he's showing fear now.

Comment from: P A Venables posted at December 15, 2004 11:15 AM

I agree with Sage here. I think Wiley is making a joke that is relevant, otherwise he wouldn't be doing his job, but also I think the choice of name is a little too coincidental, especially if you had read his responses to Kurtz's announcement.

Bravo Eric on another "Smack me upside the head with good sense and timely commentary" websnark.

Comment from: A. Hooley posted at December 15, 2004 12:10 PM

Whatever else one may think about Scott Kurtz, he's a fine cartoonist. As an aspiring webcartoonist, I'd be satisfied to achieve a fraction of his success. So it troubles me that Wiley Miller, and other "traditional" cartoonists whom I've grown up respecting, would still consider me beneath them. Ah well, I suppose it's motivation to work that much harder.

Comment from: Phy posted at December 15, 2004 12:30 PM

True insight is when you can step back from a charged situation, remove invective and vitriol, and see the situation for what it is.

Seeing Wiley's attack as a sign of weakness is brilliant (and it's right). So Scott has this idea. Instead of attacking the idea, they attack Scott, only that plays into his hands (whether he's able to see that or not). You can't *buy* this kind of publicity.

Somebody should give Wiley something. ;)

Comment from: Pooga posted at December 15, 2004 2:14 PM

How long has the Kurtz model of distribution been on Wiley's radar? The reason I ask is because I also remember when he put up Wileytoons.com, and two things specifically about the site.

1) I forget what the special was (I think it was maybe a web-exclusive offering of Homer, one of his Sunday sub-strips), but his was one of the first sites I saw trying to offer a direct-pay comic online. I forget what the content was because whatever it was, I felt the price was exhorbitent for what he was offering.

2) I also remember he had essentially the entire run of Non-Sequitir available online, including strips that hadn't been published yet. It was a fluke of the way the site was set up, but while the formatted pages only went through "Today" (or maybe even the strip of two weeks ago today. That was standard practice with a lot of syndicated strips online back then), you could manually enter the comic image's filename directly and access strips newer than that. I read at least two months of strips in advance of their paper publication that way.

The point here is that even more than the normal delay between writing and publishing a syndicated strip, Wiley writes well in advance of the publish date, or did several years ago. Even if he did do this months ago, I'm sure he'd take satisfaction in the originally unintended dig at Kurtz. The point, touched on by cartoonlad above, is that depending on how long he's been aware of this issue, it's entirely possible that Wiley really didn't mean this as a specific dig against Scott Kurtz.

On an unrelated note, does anyone know how to keep your signature from linking to your email address here, aside from putting something in the URL field? I *thought* it was a Typekey preference thing, but no matter what I've changed there, unless I include a (often pointless or irrelevant) URL, my email address is visible and, more to the point, easily scanable by any webtrawler programs.

Comment from: djcoffman posted at December 15, 2004 2:44 PM

Let me assure you, as someone who's been at ground zero on the private boards during these debates-- it's been going on a looooong time. The stuff that was public kinda trickled out of the private arguments that kick up over there.

And this is all lame to me. Why even bother.

Comment from: William_G posted at December 15, 2004 3:14 PM

I like how some are trying to turn this into a David VS Goliath affair. Were it Scott Adams doing it, then there'd be call for it. But Wiley could vanish from the newspaper pages with barely a rumble.

The main problem with the Microsoft/ Firefox analogy is that Microsoft's employees are a long, long way away from having to worry about where rent is going to come from. That's why I say Kurtz is trying to Walmart the competition. He's proposing a business model that is basically the ultimate form of underselling the competition.

But still, it doesnt matter. The syndicates want things on their terms, and they're not going to change how they work just to pick up a comic that really doesn't have non-geek appeal. Geek things dont play outside of geek circles. I think that's pretty much Wiley's point (If he's aiming his sights at that target)

And before anyone goes screaming "Dilbert" at me: Dilbert is an office comedy. The engineering geek thing has been pushed far into the background since the comic took off.

Comment from: Pooga posted at December 15, 2004 3:58 PM

But still, it doesnt matter. The syndicates want things on their terms, and they're not going to change how they work just to pick up a comic that really doesn't have non-geek appeal.

But part of this is that Kurtz is bypassing the syndicates to go directly to the newspapers. Whether the syndicates want things on their terms or not, there are a lot of papers out there. Enough that Scott will probably get a not insignificant number to take him up on his offer. Whether that has an impact on the papers' sales (or costs), or the syndicates' profits, or, of course, Kurtz's profits in any measurable amount is what matters. And if Kurtz's model is good enough to bump some of the second or third tier syndicated strips in any of the major papers, Wiley does have something to worry about.

I tend to agree that this isn't exactly David v. Goliath, or Coke v. Pepsi. It might be considered the battle between, say Mr. Pibb and Dr. Pepper, though. I doubt any webcomic now or ever will have enough draw to bump Peanuts or Garfield (for example). But what about Shoe? Or Geech? Or Adam@home? Or ... NonSequitir?

Even with larger comics pages filled with smaller comics, there's a lot more comics out there than any one paper can reasonably carry. Very few papers these days use one syndicate exclusively to fill their comics page(s). That means it's unlikely any one syndicate could block a paper from picking up PvP or a KeenStrip. And that means that in any paper that uses PvP, there's a good chance that it's going to replace a strip that's already struggling to get (or keep) a toehold on the funny pages. I doubt NonSequitir has to worry too much, but if the model proves successful enough to bring in imitators, Wiley's a lot lower on the totem pole than many other strips.

Of course, if this is directed at Kurtz, Wiley's showing quite a bit of insecurity by running this strip this early in the game. If not, well... there are a lot of self-important web-site owners out there. Then again, there are quite a few self-importent syndicated cartoonists out there waiting to be mocked as well. :)

Comment from: Amanda posted at December 15, 2004 4:26 PM

> Geek things dont play outside of geek circles. I think that's pretty much Wiley's point (If he's aiming his sights at that target)

> And before anyone goes screaming "Dilbert" at me: Dilbert is an office comedy. The engineering geek thing has been pushed far into the background since the comic took off.

... except that PvP is also a good part office humor. And relationship humor. And surreal humor (trolls, anyone?). And luddite-esque nostalgia humor (see: Cole and his old arcade games, which can be related to just about any technological advance -- TV over radio, for instance).... it's centered around geekery, but a significant portion of the strip has little to do with geekery.

So Dilbert and PvP are fair comparisons, I think. Not equivalents -- not nearly (PvP is just a bit more sophisticated, I think: it's genuinely funny, and its characters have more than one dimension to them), but both prove that "geek" humor can appeal to the masses, because it's not even geek humor -- it's just people humor.

Comment from: Ghastly posted at December 15, 2004 5:14 PM

I'd like to say, having participated in some mutual ranting with Wiley before, that had I read his strip first in the paper instead of here on Websnark that I would have instantly recognized the hidden meaning behind the strip.

Of course in order to have read Wiley's strip first in the paper instead of on the web, I'd have to read a paper. News still comes in paper, does it? How quaint.

I suppose I could have read Wiley's strip on his website before reading it here on Websnark, but as a very busy man myself I don't really have time to read every comic on the internet. I only read the ones I like.

While Non Sequitor has its moments it tends to come off much like one of those comedians who use their act as therapy and stand on stage unloading their bile and misery and bitter disappointment with a world they realize they're ultimately powerless to change. You know, the ones that used to make you laugh but the longer their careers laugh the more you just start to feel sad for them.

Anyways, it was a cute jab at Kurtz and the internet.

Comment from: Charlie L posted at December 15, 2004 5:58 PM

William, you make a valid point, however, Walmart has reached the point where it changes industries to suits its needs, not vice versa. Walmart didn't introduce a new business model so much as it took the existing retail model to the limit of its potential efficiency. That would be like the syndicates trying to take over webcomics.

I think the Mozilla/Microsoft analogy has traction simply in that it is a small "renegade" outfit taking on an established giant on its own turf. Sure, Wiley isn't a giant, but the syndicates are, compared to webcomics. Scott is offering a year's worth of comics for free to papers if they run it. I'm assuming that after a year, the paper will have to start paying - just not to a syndicate.

Mozilla may be not be threatening Microsoft's bottom line in a significant manner, but what about the programmers in the IE division? How do they feel about Firefox? Might some of them look on Firefox like Wiley looks on Scott Kurtz?

Comment from: Joe Zabel posted at December 15, 2004 6:15 PM

I think Wiley's cartoon is very well done graphically, and has a subtle, low-key sense of humor that you almost never see in webcartoonists. Notice how tiny the figures are, and yet they still project attitudes. I also love the use of texture that darkens to solid black in the center.

The piece makes its point with wit and precision. It may apply to the specific instance of the attempted outsourcing of the funny pages to scab labor. But it more generally applies to the universal situation of newly-empowered nerds whose arrogance is overbearing.

This is the kind of cartoon that is really enjoyable to find cut out of the paper and tacked to the wall of somebody's cubicle. It rewards a concentrated viewing. Too bad that this artform is being threatened by the Walmarting of the funny pages.

As for who "blinked," I vote for the fellow who fumed and whined on his blog.

Comment from: djcoffman posted at December 15, 2004 6:40 PM

Joe... I think Syndicates have been Walmarting the comics for years actually already. When you go to Walmart, things aren't free. You get deals. One comic, let alone 10 or 15 can't be made to blame for the fall of the newspaper comics page. I blame the internet though. Its killing all the newspapers. Its very clear who blinked here. Actually, the blinking has been going on a lot in private discussions away from the public and armchair quarterbacks online.

I hate the segregation. Why is Wiley's work not a webcomic if it's online every day for free??? In fact, the same people who complain about comics being free undermining their profession, their comics are read for free EVERY DAY-- Reality checks can be painful sometimes. Comics are comics. And it goes both ways.

Comment from: Charlie L posted at December 15, 2004 7:33 PM

That's an excellent point! Pretty much any strip that shows up in a newspaper can be found on the internet, though often with a week or two delay over the papers.

What is all the fuss? djcoffman rightly states that a comic on the web is a "webcomic". Therefore, PvP and Peanuts are both webcomics. Dilbert is a webcomic, etc. Most are free, so why the hue and cry over someone offering a strip to the papers for free?

Free is free, right? Maybe yes, maybe no. The syndicates can afford to post their strips on the web for free, because that is funded by the papers' fees. Would it really be that much of a surprise if the syndicates started charging individuals a nominal fee to view their comics?

Comment from: Kris@WLP posted at December 15, 2004 7:42 PM

"Geek things dont play outside of geek circles."

Tell it to George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Sam Raimi, Kevin Smith... just to name a few people who dabble in geek movies.

(I don't include Gene Roddenberry; the mass market may have adopted Star Trek, but it has handed the recent incarnations back to the geeks with expressions of disgust.)

I also remind you of a time when the WWW was a place you went to read theses or watch a pot of coffee brew, and you had to get your online porn at 1200 baud through a BBS at ungodly long-distance phone call rates.

Now nitwits can Net.

Geekly things can catch fire, and they do with impossible-to-predict results at impossible-to-predict times.

Comment from: djcoffman posted at December 15, 2004 8:00 PM

Exactly, Charlie Z.

There are different branches of being a cartoonist. Hell, comic books and comic strips are segragated. The new breed is like an amalgamation of all the things. Where you're just a cartoonist, with probably a product that is your cartoons. Look, is PvP a webcomic?? Yep. Is it a comic book-- yeah. Is it a newspaper strip-- now it is. It's a comic. By a cartoonist.

There are those who wish to keep these seperations and walls up-- because when the walls finally do come down, there goes the neighborhood!

Comment from: Tragic Lad posted at December 16, 2004 1:28 AM

My wife and I were downtown Toronto, catching up with some old friends over lunch. While pouring over the menus, trying to decide what to order, we were chatting about the Wiley strip and I was relating Eric's comments and West Wing reference. My wife had not yet seen the Wiley comic and asked me to describe it. I couldn't remember exactly what Wiley's caption was - when suddenly our waiter leans over and says "oh, the slam on PVP? It was 'Scotty continues to spread the gospel on the importance of website hits.'"


At what point does someone become a celebrety? How large a following does one need before they cross that magic line of being 'just some schmoe' to being 'a celebrety'? Some stranger, thousands of miles away reads your work. Is that enough? What about ten readers? A hundred readers? A thousand? A million?


What's that magic threshold that gets you into le club de foofoo?

Comment from: JSW posted at December 16, 2004 2:15 AM

My guess is that it's around the time that people who have absolutely no interest in your work still know who you are. When there's a good chance that people who never read webcomics would still know who Scott Kurtz is, then he's hit the proverbial "big time".

Comment from: Jason posted at December 16, 2004 4:10 AM

Wow. It's the Coke vs. Pepsi comments that finally got me to register...

Coke wasn't exactly crying over Pepsi's taste-test ads. As I've heard it, they actually colluded with Pepsi to get those ads done.

Why? Because if your choice were between Coke and Pepsi, RC Cola doesn't enter the picture at all. Coke & Pepsi created a duality such that you were a Coke drinker or a Pepsi drinker, as a consequence driving most other cola manufacturers to the brink and thereby splitting the market between the two of them.

I don't think print and web cartoonists are doing the same, I just wanted to point that out about Coke vs. Pepsi.

Me, I wonder how long it's going to be before television goes the way of the dodo and we stream all of our tv over our 'net connections...

Comment from: William_G posted at December 16, 2004 10:03 AM

Since we've moved on to arguing minutia:

"George Lucas"

Star Wars was an action film set in space. THX 111111something was a hard SF movie. Only one of them had sequels.

"Steven Spielberg"

Shindler's List is a nerd film?

"Sam Raimi"

You kind of got me on that one, but before Spiderman, Raimi was only known in geek circles.

"I also remind you of a time when the WWW was a place you went to read theses..."

See, the thing is, the WWW was marketed in non-geek terms. The reason it worked because what it did was give away porn and free music.

As for the scope of subject material some see in PvP.. you're kind, generous people.

Comment from: Eric M. posted at December 16, 2004 2:38 PM

I'm calling bullshit on this post.

A syndicated newspaper cartoonist (Wiley Miller) possibly/presumably makes a joke about a webcartoonist (Scott Kurtz):

"... it's mean spirited and it's ugly and it highlights a sense of close-mindedness. ... when you're in [Wiley's] position, you don't take shots at the people trying to fight their way up. ... Wiley blinked today. ... And when history of illustration texts are written, this strip will end up reproduced as the point where the newspaper cartoonists began to react to their inevitable decline."

Really? Then how about when a webcartoonist (Scott Kurtz) made a series cartoons ripping on mini-comics artists? Isn't that ugly, closed-minded, a bully taking unnecessary shots at struggling artists?

And did anyone read that as a sign that webcartoonists had "blinked"? Was that a major turning point in cartooning history -- a sign that photocopied mini-comics were about to send webcartoons on their inevitable decline?

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 16, 2004 3:15 PM

Really? Then how about when a webcartoonist (Scott Kurtz) made a series cartoons ripping on mini-comics artists? Isn't that ugly, closed-minded, a bully taking unnecessary shots at struggling artists?

Yup. Utterly. That was the thing I've disliked the most in the whole of the PvP run. It was beneath Kurtz at best. Of course, my post above wasn't about Kurtz, it was Wiley.

And did anyone read that as a sign that webcartoonists had "blinked"? Was that a major turning point in cartooning history -- a sign that photocopied mini-comics were about to send webcartoons on their inevitable decline?

Nope. You're not describing Coke and Pepsi, there. You're describing Fanta and Doctor Pepper. Scott Kurtz isn't out in front of the mini-comics folks. Neither is Penny Arcade or anyone else in the web world. Some webcomics have more significance than independent comic artists. Some have less. But while that sequence bugged me, I didn't see it as a sign that Kurtz was weakening after being in a preeminent position. Kurtz wasn't in a preeminent position there.

Wiley, on the other hand, is. He's a solid second tier syndicated cartoonist, in hundreds of papers. He is in the heart of the newspaper syndicate system. He is way out in front, and in a position where any cheap shots he takes against Kurtz (or Keen or anyone else) serves more to legitimize them than hurt them. His very acknowledgement is an example of weakened position.

You can wholly disagree with this post -- several have, and several have agreed, and I respect both positions. But the situation you're setting up doesn't correspond.

Comment from: Kris@WLP posted at December 16, 2004 3:17 PM

There's a difference between a general parody of the alt-comics scene (which describes Graphimaximo) and a direct attack on a specific person (which describes the Non Sequitur strip).

Kurtz seldom goes after anyone specific, by name, directly.

Granted, it's not always a bad thing to do so- I'll get behind a Bush-bashing strip almost any day, and at the same time I enjoyed the Mallard Fillmore jabs at Kerry- but generally speaking it has to be -funny.-

And for me, the Non Sequitur strip failed miserably in this.

As it does quite often.

Comment from: Aeire posted at December 16, 2004 5:40 PM

And did anyone read that as a sign that webcartoonists had "blinked"?

Uh, no - I viewed that whole run as a not-so-subtle mockery of the people in the indie genre that let that status lead them to a kind of self-serving and egomanical pretention, which is pretty damn funny in and of itself, funnier still when it's innocent and mostly brain-dead Skull that's targeted for that position.

Whereas Wiley's comic, if it *was* directed at Kurtz (do we have a confirmation on this one way or another? Because it'd also be pretty damn funny if everyone was up in arms over this and it turns out he's talking about an overzealous Star Trek fan, really), was a pointed and personal jab at one person as a result of a personal vendetta. It wasn't funny, it wasn't satirical, it was someone laughing up his sleeve and saying to themselves 'boy howdy I sure showed HIM!' - really kinda childish.

As far as Kurtz's strips go, I don't really see what they have to do with the subject at hand - and honestly, if there are people out there that are still upset over that run and holding that Kurtz's head, they're probably the kind of people Kurtz is poking fun at. Yeesh, it was almost two years ago, people. Get a sense of humor and let it go already.

Comment from: Prodigal posted at December 17, 2004 12:44 AM

"The main problem with the Microsoft/ Firefox analogy is that Microsoft's employees are a long, long way away from having to worry about where rent is going to come from."

Unless they're working in the support division.

As for the "New Coke" thing, I still believe that the real reason they did that was to allow them to change the formula from cane sugar to corn syrup without having their offices burned down by angry customers. Think about it - what's a worse move in the long run: Changing the Coca-Cola formula, and pissing a lot of people off, or putting a treacly glop on the market long enough for the supplies of original Coca-Cola to run out, then changing the Coca-Cola formula and dubbing it "Coke Classic"?

Comment from: Joshua posted at December 17, 2004 10:31 AM

I think that Wiley let his iconography get away from him here. The text indicates it's a jab at the self-importance of website owners (ignoring the added swipe at Kurtz, if that's what it is). But the bouncer, the pony-tailed trendoid with his clipboard, the Club de Foo Foo and its velvet ropes, the little nerdy guy all point the same way: root for the underdog. It's like drawing a cartoon with a kid throwing a snowball at a top-hatted plutocrat and expecting us to side with the plutocrat....I'd say Wiley must really not be thinking straight to make such a basic cartooning error.

Comment from: Eric M. posted at December 17, 2004 12:39 PM

Eric Burns wrote: "You're not describing Coke and Pepsi, there. You're describing Fanta and Doctor Pepper. "

Your beverage analogy is falling apart. If Wiley taking shots at a web cartoonist is like Coke taking shots at Pepsi, then why would a webcartoonist (Pepsi in your previous analogy) become Fanta when taking shots at minicomics (represented by Dr. Pepper)?

Either you're switching up the power relationships in your analogy to whatever suits your purposes at a given point in a discussion, or the divine intervention of Jesus just showed up and turned my Pepsi into Fanta.

Also, Coke owns Fanta. By your analogy then, Wiley Miller owns Scott Kurtz, but only when he's taking shots at mini-comics artists. Also, I'm not sure how your analogy accounts for the fact that The Fantanas are fabulous babes and that Sophia loves grape.

"Scott Kurtz isn't out in front of the mini-comics folks."

That is very true.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 17, 2004 12:49 PM

None of this changes the most important point, and that is that Moxie sucks.

Comment from: Eric M. posted at December 17, 2004 1:09 PM

Aerie wrote: "As far as Kurtz's strips go, I don't really see what they have to do with the subject at hand ..."

Basically, when an artist who takes cheap shots at other artists falls victim to a cheap shot by a different artist, I'm not joining his pity party. I find it difficult to choose sides in this particular nerd fight between two assholes.

"and honestly, if there are people out there that are still upset over that run and holding that Kurtz's head, they're probably the kind of people Kurtz is poking fun at."

Right, my thinking it's a stupid assholish move to be taking clumsy shots at mini-comics artists must mean I'm a minicomics artist, just like how I'm pro-affirmative action, pro-choice, and pro-gay marriage must mean I'm a black pregnant lesbian.

You caught me.

Comment from: Prodigal posted at December 17, 2004 2:44 PM

Perhaps it's just that I haven't met any intellectual snobs who go about in black turtlenecks and write pretentiously incoherent minicomics, but I fail to see how Kurtz was attacking any specific individuals, either overtly or by implication.

Comment from: Joe Zabel posted at December 17, 2004 5:59 PM

William G.: "Really? Then how about when a webcartoonist (Scott Kurtz) made a series cartoons ripping on mini-comics artists? Isn't that ugly, closed-minded, a bully taking unnecessary shots at struggling artists?"

Eric: "Yup. Utterly. That was the thing I've disliked the most in the whole of the PvP run. It was beneath Kurtz at best. Of course, my post above wasn't about Kurtz, it was Wiley."

Geez, I think both artists were well within their proper rolls as satirists, taking jabs at what they perceive to be mankind's foolishness. I have no interest in reading sensitive, politically-correct cartoonists who take the high road all the time. Give me Ted Rall any day of the week.

The only things worth considering about either artist's jabs is: 1) Is it funny? And 2) does it ring true. I can't comment on the Kurtz stuff, but regarding Wiley, 1) Yes, it's funny, and 2) ABSOLUTELY it rings true.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 17, 2004 7:06 PM

Joe Zabel: actually, the quote you attributed to William G. belonged to Eric "Fetus X" M. instead. Just to keep it clear.

And as for your point... I can see that too, definitely.

Comment from: Prodigal posted at December 17, 2004 8:11 PM

It's somewhat funny (playing into the stereotype of computer people as all being overweight losers in flood pants takes a lot of the funny out of it,) but it does not ring true.

Comment from: Eric M. posted at December 17, 2004 11:42 PM

Prodigal wrote: "Perhaps it's just that I haven't met any intellectual snobs who go about in black turtlenecks and write pretentiously incoherent minicomics, but I fail to see how Kurtz was attacking any specific individuals, either overtly or by implication."

And perhaps you've never met any lazy mexicans, so you fail to see any problems with racial jokes?

The fact that a joke is based on inaccurate stereotypes is not a good defense of the joke -- that's a good reason for why the joke fails.

And I was in conversations with Scott at the time -- he made it pretty clear he sincerely believed in the accuarcy of his depiction of the terrorist threat of incoherent hippie minicomics or whatever.

Comment from: Eric M. posted at December 18, 2004 12:00 AM

Joe Zabel wrote: "I think both artists were well within their proper rolls as satirists, taking jabs at what they perceive to be mankind's foolishness. I have no interest in reading sensitive, politically-correct cartoonists who take the high road all the time. Give me Ted Rall any day of the week."

Both artists are within their rights, but they're failing in what I believe their roles ought to be. I'll take Rall any day of the week, too -- except for the days he's making fun of retards. I'm kinda out of my mind right now, so I'm not sure I'm going to explain this well, but there's a power relationship at work here, but maybe I need to contrast it with what the other Eric described earlier.

Eric Burns wrote: ... when you're in [the more powerful] position, you don't take shots at the people trying to fight their way up. ... When asked about them, you look confused and say "who?"

Maybe that's a great capitalist strategy when you're out to crush all competition and dominate the planet with your carbonated beverage corporaton. But as a satirist, you're not out to ignore the less powerful, you're out to help the less powerful by taking shots at the more powerful. If you're a satirist taking shots at the less powerful, you're like Reagan's press secratary making AIDS jokes.

Does that make sense? I don't know, maybe this does:

* Bush making fun of a woman on death row = asshole.

* Women on death row making fun of Bush = good satire.

* Ted Rall making fun of Bush = good satire.

* Ted Rall making fun of retarded kids = asshole.

* Retarded kids making fun of Ted Rall = good satire.

Right?

Comment from: Joe Zabel posted at December 18, 2004 12:23 PM

Eric-- No, I don't agree at all. Something is good satire if it's funny and rings true. It's not good satire based on the power relationship between the satirist and the target.

And good satire or any form of good art has absolutely nothing to do with whether the artist is an asshole or not. In fact, I think being an asshole is almost a requirement. Some of the worst art ever created is the work of noble people with the best intentions.

Comment from: Joe Zabel posted at December 18, 2004 12:25 PM

Argh! I left a comment, and it seems to have disappeared. Suffice to say, Eric, I completely disagree with you.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 18, 2004 12:41 PM

Joe -- first off, it looks like your comment went through, as you've got two comments in a row.

Second off, do you mean Eric/Websnark or Eric/Fetus X when you say you completely disagree? I suspect you mean Eric/Fetus X, since you and I weren't directly debating here, but it could be me so I might as well ask.

Erics. There's just too damn many of us.

Comment from: Joe Zabel posted at December 18, 2004 1:33 PM

There are never enough Erics! There should be MORE Erics, if the two of you are typical of the breed!

Yeah, I knew it was Eric Millikin who wrote the comment above me, which is the one I was responding to.

There seems to be some kind of a delay in posts showing up, so I'll assume this one will show up after several minutes or something.

Comment from: Eric M. posted at December 21, 2004 10:57 PM

Hey Joe -- you'll probably never even see this, but I actually don't think we're that far away from each other on this. Your "Something is good satire if it's funny and rings true" sounds about right to me -- I'd just add that funny is subjective, and for me that if the power relationship goes the wrong way, then the funny is destroyed.

To use oneof my earlier examples, I'm sure Bush thought it was really humorous to make fun of a woman on death row pleading for her life, but I don't.

Comment from: Patrick Harris posted at December 31, 2004 2:40 PM

Aaaand again.

Comment from: The Nettled Shrew posted at January 7, 2005 3:25 PM

Geek things dont play outside of geek circles.

Foxtrot isn't geeky?

Comment from: TheSporkWithin posted at January 7, 2005 4:22 PM

Yeah, December 31st's strip is far more overt. http://www.ucomics.com/nonsequitur/2004/12/31/

Comment from: Laner posted at January 7, 2005 4:23 PM

McDonald's? McDonald's has "I love this place." Burger King isn't in their world.

Actually, Burger King had "I love this place." - McDonalds has "I'm Lovin' It."

Comment from: cartoonlad posted at January 7, 2005 7:28 PM

...and reading too much into today's strip, the pro-online comics crowd are character assassins.

I wonder how far in advance Wiley prepares his strips?

Comment from: Prodigal posted at January 7, 2005 9:00 PM

Prodigal wrote: "Perhaps it's just that I haven't met any intellectual snobs who go about in black turtlenecks and write pretentiously incoherent minicomics, but I fail to see how Kurtz was attacking any specific individuals, either overtly or by implication."

And perhaps you've never met any lazy mexicans, so you fail to see any problems with racial jokes?

That was mighty white of you, Eric M.

Comment from: Just3Ws posted at January 8, 2005 12:03 PM

Prodigal wrote: "...so you fail to see any problems with racial jokes?



That was mighty white of you"



Uhm. Hi Pot, I'm Kettle, and you're black.

Comment from: Prodigal posted at January 10, 2005 4:24 PM

You're mistaken, Just3W. The only part of the post of mine to which you objected was the final line - the rest should have all been in italics, but I screwed up the formatting. So at worst, I'm a colander.

Comment from: Futurist [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at May 16, 2009 3:54 PM

Reading this post for the first time in 2009 is really interesting. Five years pass, and now I bet every syndicated cartoonist is looking for a way to make a living online after the last paper goes bankrupt.

Penny-arcade.com

Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)


Remember me?